As there seems to be a basic lack of understanding of fat acceptance among many readers here, I think it’s appropriate to take some time out and illustrate some of what I consider the main lessons taught by the fat positivity and fat acceptance movements. I recognize that Bitch does not regularly deal with issues of size and fatness, so we’ll just discuss some key points and then we can go back to talking about fat in pop culture.
First off, the last post I did, “Size Matters: Small Screen, Big Women” ignited an angry firestorm of folks upset because I called Grey’s Anatomy’s Sara Ramirez “fat.” These comments included statements like:
I never thought of Sara Ramirez as fat. I however do agree that she is super hot.
It is sick you are calling Sara Ramirez fat! What is going on in this world when a woman who doesnt look like she is dying of starvation is called fat! Her stomach is flat!
Sara is BEAUTIFUL. unbelievably beautiful and NOT fat. if she’s fat then most of the world is freaking obese.
I believe that questioning whether Sara Ramirez is fat is a pertinent question. […] The truth is she has a healthy way and the fact that she is a plus sized woman shows how even sizes tend to consider a healthy weight and figure as plus sized. I believe she probably considers herself as plus sized because, amidst a Hollywood where ultra thin women are the rule, a healthy and beautiful voluptuous woman is an exception when she should be the rule.
I’d be very insulted and hurt if someone called me fat. And as I said above, I’m 5’5 and 190 lbs, and I’m sure people think I am, but I do not consider myself to be fat in any way.
There are many different layers and flavors of fatphobia in those comments. The first comment may not have been meant to imply that fat was bad, however it does illustrate that Sara Ramirez is considered beautiful, but not fat, to that commenter. Maybe the commenter feels fat is bigger than that, but is not upset by hearing Sara Ramirez called fat. I don’t know. The point is, fat and hot are not mutually exclusive.
The second comment illustrates the belief many have that all fat people have the same body type, and that if you possess a physical trait like a “flat stomach” that immediately disqualifies you from the fat game. This is not true. The comment also infers that being fat is negative; that it’s an insult to Ms. Ramirez because she’s not fat, she’s “healthy.” Which is of course, another stereotype about fat, that being fat is inherently unhealthy. It’s not.
Then there’s the third comment, probably the most telling comment of them all: Sara is beautiful, therefore she cannot be labeled fat because that would basically blow the commenters’ minds, and then everyone else who is “fat” would have to be moved up to “obese,” which to this commenter apparently means “extremely fat” and most likely “unattractive.”
The fourth commenter sees Ms. Ramirez as being at a “healthy weight,” so she’s not “fat.” She thinks Ms. Ramirez calls herself plus sized because she is “healthy” and the rest of Hollywood is unnaturally skinny. She describes Ms. Ramirez as “voluptuous” without, apparently, recognizing that “voluptuous” is just a workaround for saying fat. Again we have the fat=unhealthy stereotype, and it again is untrue.
Finally, we have the fifth comment, which is perhaps the most unfortunate comment in some ways. This person recognizes that others may see her as fat, but she believes she’s not fat and is very offended and insulted by even the thought of being called fat. I would let that slide as being the feelings of someone who hasn’t come to terms with their fat, because I’ve been at that same weight and height and thought the exact same thing. But the fact that this commenter is so virulently against having the word applied to her AND IS EXPRESSING IT ON A FAT POSITIVE THREAD is offensive to me, because I am fat and I don’t think my body is something that should be an insult to be compared to.
Now, in the post there was a bit of a trick (unintended) that ended up bringing out the true reasoning behind many of the comments defensive of Ms. Ramirez. Chandra Wilson (pictured above), another fat actress on Grey’s Anatomy, is actually much smaller in all dimensions than Sara Ramirez. Yet no one took to her defense. She basically got thrown under the proverbial fat bus. Why is that? Well, Chandra Wilson is not conventionally attractive. She is also not portrayed as a sex symbol on the show. She’s a stout black woman who I happen to think is gorgeous, but she’s not part of the sex antics on the show.
Basically what these comments are saying is “Sara Ramirez is hot, and fat people are not hot. Ergo, Sara Ramirez is not fat.” They are also, by lack of inclusion, saying “Chandra Wilson is fat, even though she’s smaller than Sara Ramirez, because she is not hot (to me).” And finally, they’re saying what every fat woman who has a conventionally attractive face hears many times over their life as a fatty: “You have such a pretty face.”
Here’s the ground rules, once again and spelled out in detail for those who didn’t seem to grasp them the first time:
No fat shaming, this includes comments that infer that being fat is unhealthy, unattractive, or undesirable. The word fat will be used to describe some people you may not be comfortable viewing as fat because of their attractiveness. Sit back with that thought and refrain from expressing it. Once again, NO FAT SHAMING.
No debating over whether or not “fat” is a positive term. In this little space, in the “Size Matters” portion of the Bitch blogs, “fat” is either VALUE NEUTRAL or POSITIVE. “Obese/overweight/healthy weight” and other nebulous terms are not allowed. Here, all weights are healthy.
WE ARE TALKING ABOUT FAT WOMEN IN POP CULTURE. So don’t act shocked when you hear the word “fat” on this blog. I’m not using curvy, voluptuous, zaftig, full-figured, or any other euphemisms. FAT. Deal with it.
Hopefully this will help eliminate some of the drama that occurred on that last thread.
Okay? So let’s go back to having fun talking about pop culture.